Exploring Retirement Orientations

Robert Conyne

2021-03-01 3 min read

Exploring “Toe-Dipping” and “Cliff Diving”

After working with and studying many people considering retiring, I see several interesting patterns.  Some (I think, more) prospective retirees approach this important life transition as if dipping their big toe into a lake to test if they might follow with the rest of their body; others (I think, fewer) just dive off the cliff nearly RIGHT NOW.   That contrast is the focus of this Blog entry.  But, rest assured, there are other ways to retire, including phasing it in over time, or continuing to work some while being retired.  There are many ways, no one right way.  

Let’s step back for a moment. As with most of life’s challenges, how a person approaches the question of retirement is a function of both Personal (P) and Environmental (E) factors.  What decision making style do you typically employ (P)?  How financially secure are you (E)?  What are your attitudes about retirement (P)?  What options seem to be available to you once retired (E)?  How do you approach new tasks and experiences (P)?  Would you view yourself as being generally risk-tolerant or risk-aversive (P)? What is the level of support you have available? (E).  And many more.

Here, try this:  Come up with 3 other P and 3 E factors that seem relevant for anticipating retirement, and list them below:

           3 Personal (P) Factors                                                                               3 Environmental (E) Factors

_____________________________                                   _______________________________

_____________________________                                   _______________________________

_____________________________                                   _______________________________

Look at your list of Personal and Environmental factors through the lens of toe dipping vs. cliff diving and combine this information with all else you know about yourself:  Which orientation seems to fit your more closely? Then consider how effective and efficient that style has been for you over the decades.

There are relative advantages and disadvantages to each orientation: 

Toe-Dipping, on the positive side, provides the opportunity to gradually amass information and evolve your readiness for change.  It is characterized by reasoned analysis.  As a down-side, it can be riddled by chronic high anxiety and fear of making a decision, to taking a leap.

Cliff-Diving, on its positive side, allows you to trust your thoughts and feelings, taking action clearly and directly without being burdened by excessive self-doubt; however, it runs the risk of impulsiveness, acting too quickly without benefit of reasoned analysis. It is characterized by an action style.

So, what can we make of these two orientations and their relationship to retirement decision making?  Generally speaking, a balanced approach may offer greater advantages, which can be thought of in this way:

Try to integrate a reasoned analysis and an action approach.

We think the Charting Your Personal Future model can assist you in this quest.  Its major steps of Review-Dream-Plan-Engage provide opportunities to draw from both a reasoned analysis and action approach, where the positive aspects of toe dipping and cliff diving can be realized.

Happy exploration!